Lawmakers on the Defence Committee yesterday quizzed army officials over diversion of Shs21.2b meant for repairing three military aircraft.
The diverted funds were part of the Shs46.1billion Parliament approved in the current financial year budget.
The MPs heard that instead of repairing the three aircraft, the army leadership paid annual aircraft insurance, trained eight personnel, participated in UPDF/Amisom troop rotation in Somalia and procured spares for one aircraft.
This angered the lawmakers led by Ms Doreen Amule (NRM, Amolatar Woman), who resolved to stay the approval of the 2021/2022 financial year Defence ministry budget until full accountability of the money is made. Defence minister Adolf Mwesige and other army officials were in Parliament to defend their Shs3.9 trillion budget for the next financial year.
Mr Mwesige explained that the Uganda Air Cargo Corporation (UACC) under the army has already used Shs21.2b of the Shs46.1b.
According to the minister, UACC used Shs1.4b to procure aircraft spares for maintenance of the C-130 Reg No 5x-UCF, paid annual aircraft insurance certificate for C-130 Reg No 5x-UCF at Shs2.5b and trained eight personnel at Aero Consultants.
The minister also told the committee that UACC participated in UPDF/Amisom troop rotation to and from Somalia at a cost of Shs5.4b.
“Although the C-13- 5X-UCE aircraft was repaired, its pilots are still undergoing training to operate the plane before it takes off for business. Besides, the aircraft is due for a check in Amman, Jordan, where it is expected to be for 30-45 days before returning to full serviceability,” Mr Mwesige said.
The minister told MPs that C-130 Reg No 5X-UDF aircraft is due for a maintenance and repair, asserting that due to Covid-19, the technical people could not come to work on it.
The ministers’ explanation drew anger from the committee members, who accused the army of diverting public funds to other unplanned activities.
Mr Muwanga Kivumbi (DP, Butambala County) said: “We shall not approve their budget if they do not account for public funds. They convinced us that if we provided them Shs46.1b, their UACC would make profits but they are now spending the money on insurance and other things we did not approve.”
Mr Muyanja Mbabaali (Bukoto South) said: “Part of the Shs46.1b was supposed to be used to repair C-130 Reg No 5X-UDE aircraft but we were shocked to learn that this aircraft has to date not been repaired. We are not going to approve the army budget until they account for this money.”
The committee chairperson, Ms Amule, asked the Defence ministry officials to re-appear with their counterparts from the aircraft corporation later this week.
More budget blues for the army
Meanwhile, the government has failed to raise Shs2.5 trillion for the operations of the army. The army leadership has expressed concern that the shortfall will affect their operations in the coming financial year.
Budget details show Defence requested for Shs6.3 trillion, but the ministry has been given only Shs3.9 trillion.
Minister Mwesige listed wage bill (Shs559b), non-wage bill (Shs492.4b), capital investment (Shs1.2t) and arrears (Shs188.7b) among the unfunded priorities. The most affected projects include UPDF barracks and classified equipment.